Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
Recently someone complained to me that she could not make simplicity work. When I asked how she was trying to simplify, she told me she had bought colorful matching containers as a simplicity “expert” had suggested, and then made an inventory on her computer to help her find things. I shook my head. I have heard this over and over again, so I thought I would share 10 ineffective ways to simplify.
1. Buy Containers
Buying containers is a good idea if you are using storage containers that are broken. However, simplification should start with getting rid of stuff, rather than stuffing things into containers. Boxed clutter is still clutter. It just looks prettier.
2. Refuse To Let Stuff Go
Part of simplification is to get rid of stuff that isn’t useful. If you can’t get rid of anything, you won’t be able to simplify. I often wonder: if you treasure your grandmother’s lace tablecloth so much, why is it crammed into a cardboard box and shoved into your garage? Let go of things you don’t use and let them go to someone who will use them.
3. Refuse To Let Projects Go
One aspect of simplification is to clean out our activity queue. That means letting some projects go by the wayside, either permanently or temporarily. Refusing to let anything go allows our schedules and task lists to be so cluttered we will feel frantic, even if we are not.
4. Refuse To Let People Go
Some people out there are toxic. And some we can outgrow. By keeping up relationships that harm you, you are keeping yourself in a place from which you cannot simplify. I’m not saying this is easy, but it is sometimes necessary.
5. Cook From Scratch
Some people equate simplicity with cooking from scratch. Sorry to disappoint you, but for many people who work outside the home, having to come home and cook a complete meal from scratch can actually overwhelm what little free time you have. Go with the type of cooking that is easiest for you. If that means buying healthy prepared food from the grocery, then do so!
6. Pare Down Excessively
Yes, simplicity is about getting rid of stuff. However, if you pare down to the point where you can’t get stuff done, your simplicity is taken to extremes. Yes, it is possible to live with one pair of socks; however, having to go without socks or wash socks every single day takes time and is actually a complication.
7. Use Someone Else’s Methods
What works for one person is not guaranteed to work for another. Taking someone else’s simplicity system straight out of the box is like cramming a square peg into a round hole. You need to be able to discard whatever pieces of a simplicity system don’t work for you, regardless of how big the credentials of the person who recommends them.
I have heard people recommend multi-tasking as a way to simplify lives. It can be, to a certain extent. If you are doing a task that is repetitive and does not require much thought or concentration, it is perfect for multi-tasking. Example: calling your mother while walking the dog, or folding laundry while watching television. However, “multi-tasking” between tasks that require you to think and be aware of details is actually not multi-tasking at all — it is task switching. This can actually lead you to take longer on each task in total, and cause you to expend a lot of mental energy.
9. Overuse Technology
Technology is not the answer to everything. Don’t feel that just because someone else keeps their address book in their computer that this is a good solution for you as well, especially if you prefer to keep your addresses in a binder in the kitchen next to the phone.
Technology is often touted as a time saver, but there are times when it can be counterproductive. Having a breadmaker on hand is a great way to make bread — if you make your own bread. If you don’t, it’s a needless complication that can be eliminated.
10. Underuse Technology
The flip side is true as well. Simple doesn’t mean without technology. Few of us would trade automatic washers for boiling clothes in large pots over open fires.
Technology, correctly used, can actually simplify and save time. We moved all our family calendars into Cozi so that everyone can see what everyone else is doing. Cozi picks up on schedules from our regular sources, and puts them in one place. This allows us to see who is where when, and makes coordinating activities much easier.
Do you have a favorite way not to simplify? Share below.
Photo by Valerie Everett